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O'Connor leads rout as Mayo mix chaos with class

All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Mayo 5-20 Tipperary 3-13

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Diarmuid O’Connor scores Mayo’s fourth goal. Photo: Sportsfile

Diarmuid O’Connor scores Mayo’s fourth goal. Photo: Sportsfile

Diarmuid O’Connor scores Mayo’s fourth goal. Photo: Sportsfile

At the end, the Tipperary players and management gathered themselves together and silently walked in unison to the corner of Croke Park where their fellow county man Michael Hogan lost his life just over 100 years ago before their captain Conor Sweeney climbed up the steps of Hill 16 to lay a wreath on their behalf to honour the deceased.

It was a poignant moment, every bit as moving as the official commemoration 15 days earlier as an already muted stadium fell into deeper, respectful silence.

What a contrast to the earlier turbulence of a disorderly All-Ireland football semi-final, full of mood swings that eventually deposited Mayo into a fifth All-Ireland final in nine years.

In truth, from the moment Aidan O'Shea ripped the ball away from Kevin Fahey on nine minutes to send Tommy Conroy spinning away who, in turn, teed up Cillian O'Connor for the first of his four goals, with a perfectly weighted handpass to the far post, the result was always heading one way.

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Cillian O'Connor celebrates scoring his and the county’s second – one score of 4-9 for the corner forward against Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile

Cillian O'Connor celebrates scoring his and the county’s second – one score of 4-9 for the corner forward against Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile

Cillian O'Connor celebrates scoring his and the county’s second – one score of 4-9 for the corner forward against Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile

Even the avalanche of Tipperary goal chances that followed - and three were taken - couldn't divert the inevitability of a fourth Mayo/Dublin All-Ireland final in eight years.

Mayo won by 13 points but will be far from happy with how they saw out this game. From a position where they were 21 points up in the 50th minute, they got sloppy and finished it with a slew of blue and gold shirts queuing up for goal chances that could, and should, have dented their advantage even further.

Mayo's 5-20 was a record-winning tally in an All-Ireland semi-final, but their concession of 3-13 allowed Tipperary to match the highest-losing tally at this penultimate stage over 70 minutes (they scored 3-15 after extra-time against Kerry in 2014) which was previously held by Offaly with 4-10 in 1980.

All this played against the backdrop of a descending fog that enveloped the stadium and made visibility very difficult, almost a metaphor for the chaos that sometimes reigned.

Disaster had threatened for Tipperary after their landmark Munster title success two weeks earlier but, to their credit, they hung in and finished with something of a flourish, 'winning' the second half by 2-8 to 1-8 as they put the pressure on the Mayo kick-out, something Dublin can expect to make a lot more of on Saturday week.

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Mayo's Aidan O'Shea gets ahead of Tipperary's Alan Campbell. Photo: Sportsfile

Mayo's Aidan O'Shea gets ahead of Tipperary's Alan Campbell. Photo: Sportsfile

Mayo's Aidan O'Shea gets ahead of Tipperary's Alan Campbell. Photo: Sportsfile

But all the damage was done in the first half with the Mayo full-forward line tearing them asunder.

Cillian O'Connor led the charge, scoring a fourth career championship hat-trick (he had previously scored three goals against London and Donegal in 2013 and Limerick in 2018) on an afternoon when his 4-9 pushed past his own 3-9 against Limerick, Johnny Joyce's 5-3 for Dublin against Longford in the 1960 Leinster Championship and Rory Gallagher's 3-9 for Fermanagh in the 2002 Ulster Championship against Monaghan.

O'Connor was clinical and sharp in everything he did, perhaps less burdened by having Colm O'Shaughnessy rather than Alan Campbell, who he has had difficulty with in two previous championship games, on his coat tails.

In the other corner, Tommy Conroy's rapid progression at this level continued. He scored four points, including a mark, to use his pace with great effect. The Neale man is the type of inside forward Mayo have not had in the recent past and while Dublin's Eoin Murchan looks tailored for him now, he adds balance with O'Shea at full-forward providing power and good hands as he underlined with his quick offload for O'Connor's second goal on 25 minutes.

But as influential as O'Shea can be in that position, can they really continue to afford having him there with the pressure on to retain their own kick-outs as they miss his presence in the middle? It's a luxury they simply don't have with the champions so rampant in that aspect of the game.

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Mayo's Cillian O'Connor scores his side's fifth goal. Photo: Sportsfile

Mayo's Cillian O'Connor scores his side's fifth goal. Photo: Sportsfile

Mayo's Cillian O'Connor scores his side's fifth goal. Photo: Sportsfile

Despite the margin of defeat, Tipperary had a comfortable aerial advantage. Steven O'Brien, Conal Kennedy and Colin O'Riordan regularly took kick-outs cleanly, their own and Mayo's, while O'Brien pushed inside to pick off a fine first-half point from a catch.

Both early Tipperary goal chances came from direct ball, with Michael Quinlivan shaking off Lee Keegan and then Conor Sweeney doing much the same with Chris Barrett, only for David Clarke to smother or block both.

From the Sweeney chance, Mayo swept upfield for that first O'Connor goal almost immediately and while Brian Fox squeezed home a goal on 10 minutes from a feint dropkick that Diarmuid O'Connor almost prevented going over the line, Mayo quickly stretched into a 1-6 to 1-1 lead by the 16th minute.

O'Riordan was Tipperary's best player throughout and especially in the first half when they looked otherwise swamped. O'Connor's second goal put Mayo 10 points clear on 25 minutes and they fell apart after that with O'Connor adding a third when he intercepted Liam Casey's pass back to goalkeeper Evan Comerford on 30 minutes before Diarmuid O'Connor punished hesitancy and misunderstanding to bat home a 45 from Cillian that was falling short. By half-time, it was 4-12 to 1-5 and Tipperary badly required the haven of their dressing-room.

Kevin McLoughlin made a welcome return to form and delivered the ball for O'Connor's fourth goal, Mayo's fifth, though it was aided and abetted by Bill Maher's unfortunate slip as O'Connor got in behind him.

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Mayo goalkeeper David Clarke saves the shot of Tipperary's Conor Sweeney. Photo: Sportsfile

Mayo goalkeeper David Clarke saves the shot of Tipperary's Conor Sweeney. Photo: Sportsfile

Mayo goalkeeper David Clarke saves the shot of Tipperary's Conor Sweeney. Photo: Sportsfile

By then Lee Keegan was just returning after being black carded for cynically dragging down Michael Quinlivan in the 38th minute as Quinlivan bore down on goal.

Ironically, despite their aerial advantage, Tipperary got more profit by running directly at Mayo and Maher was similarly thwarted illegally by Chris Barrett as he went through minutes later.

Sweeney pointed both frees and referee David Gough was correct in both awards, but the demand for a bigger penalty area in Gaelic football and hurling is growing.

Focus

The goal chances kept coming for Tipp, putting more focus on a porous Mayo defence that lost Eoghan McLaughlin to injury in the 53rd minute.

Paudie Feehan drove through unhindered for a second goal on 55 minutes just after O'Brien had shot wide, with Sweeney better placed outside him, before substitute Liam Boland, off another O'Riordan kick-out intervention, sidefooted wide on 62 minutes.

By now Mayo's defence was in chaos with little structure to it as Tipp threw everything at it in pursuit of respectability, which they got to some degree.

From what should have been a much more ruthless progression to an All-Ireland final, the failure to thwart so many Tipp attacks, even with the game gone, will weigh heavily over the next 12 days.

Scorers - Mayo: C O'Connor 4-9 (6f); T Conroy 0-4 (m); D O'Connor 1-0; D Coen 0-2; P Durcan, C Loftus, M Ruane, K McLoughlin, A O'Shea 0-1 each. Tipperary: C Sweeney 1-9 (8f); B Fox, P Feehan 1-0 each; C O'Riordan 0-2; S O'Brien, K Fahey 0-1 each.

Mayo - D Clarke; O Mullin, C Barrett, L Keegan; P Durcan, E McLaughlin, S Coen; C Loftus, M Ruane; K McLoughlin, R O'Donoghue, D O'Connor; T Conroy, A O'Shea, C O'Connor. Subs: J Flynn for D O'Connor (42), P O'Hora for Barrett (47), M Plunkett for McLaughlin inj (53), T Parsons for O'Donoghue (55), D Coen for C O'Connor (66).

Tipperary - E Comerford; C O'Shaughnessy, J Feehan, A Campbell; B Maher, K Fahey, R Kiely; S O'Brien, L Casey; C O'Riordan, M Quinlivan, Conal Kennedy; B Fox, C Sweeney, Colman Kennedy. Subs: P Austin for Fox (h-t), E Moloney for Casey (h-t), P Feehan for Kiely (53), D Brennan for Feehan (55), L Boland for Colman Kennedy (56).

Ref - David Gough (Meath).


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